The Iris Prize Festival is getting red(head) hot!

Fire in the hole! Shot from "Gingers". Photograph: Courtesy of Iris Prize Festival 2013.

Fire in the hole! Shot from “Gingers”. Photograph: Courtesy of Iris Prize Festival 2013.

Those who know me better will know that I have spent the last two Octobers down in Cardiff covering the Iris Prize Festival for So So Gay (SSG), with last year the publication being media partners.

Despite being no longer with SSG, it doesn’t mean I’ve taken my eye off the ball of this brilliant festival, or neither do I intend to take a year off from visiting the Welsh capital for this absolute gem of a cultural event.

For those who don’t know what the Iris Prize is, it’s a yearly competition specifically for LGBT short films from around the world. The winning short, selected by a jury of industry folk, journalists, politicians, and celebrities, will win £25,000 to put towards making their next short in Wales, with help of The Festivals Company who produce the festival. In past years Lisa Power, Policy Director of the Terrence Higgins Trust, and lesbian author Sara Watters, have both served on the jury.

The festival, which takes place over five days in October, also includes a programme of feature films, workshops, and parties. But what’s so great about it is the incredibly informal and intimate nature of it. Festival goers can get to know the creatives and actors involved in the films, as well as festival volunteers, organisers, and fellow patrons, in an environment where everyone is as passionate about LGBT short film as the next person.

The standard of the competing films, partially put forward by a network of collaborating LGBT film festivals from around the world, and also by filmmakers who have personally submitted into the competition, is always incredibly high. Despite there being around 30 shorts each year vying for the prize, there are few that fall below a standard of uncompromising brilliance.

So imagine my delight when the full programme was announced today. One of the things I’m personally looking forward to is Gingers, a steamy short, that looks at the skin, the hair, and the lives of red-headed guys, leaving no stone unturned, or anything unexposed! This short from porn director Antonio da Silva, it’s certainly going to heat up Cardiff like never before. I confess, my excitement for this purely stems from my own little “thing” I have for gingers. 

Other intriguing highlights include a film looking at sexuality and Down’s syndrome, a trip out bed shopping turning into a trip coming out of the closet, and a look at the fears of a young teenager who doesn’t like girls, but is too scared to let his classmates know.

Interestingly, although this year’s programme of competing shorts cover the length and breadth of the globe – 14 countries represented in total – 9 are from the USA. But will it mean an American film will win it, especially after Australia’s domination at last year’s competition led to a win for Grant Scicluna’s brutal The Wildling?

Excitingly, Eytan Fox returns yet again to the festival to open it with his new film Cupcakes, following on from the fabulous success that Yossi had last year, which resulted with me presenting Ohad Knoller with the prize for “Best Actor in a Feature” alongside Amy Lamé. Speaking of which, Lamé be returning to host the glossy awards ceremony held at the Park Inn in the heart of Cardiff’s city centre. Just as exciting is that home-grown talent Simon Savory will be closing the festival with his strange and sinister début feature Bruno and Earlene Go to Vegas, which has already created a global buzz.

I’m also really looking forward to the screening of Burger, a film made by 2011 prize winner, Magnus Mork, marking the fourth short film that the prize has directly funded and produced. Given the standard of Till Kleinhert’s Boys Village and Eldar Rapaport’s Little Man, two of the previous films made with the prize money, Burger has high expectations to live up to.

So, set your sights on Cardiff, start practising how to pronounce “Dwi’n hoffi froffi coffi”, learn that song about a diminutive piece of kitchenware, and pop down to say “Shwmae!” to our friend Iris.

Iris Prize Festival will take place between 9 – 13 October 2013 in various venues around Cardiff, Wales. For more information about the prize, visit www.irisprize.org.

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